musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Italian music for recorder

[I] "Alma intrepida"
Céline Pasche, recordera
I Pizzicanti
rec: August 30 - Sept 5, 2017, Oltingen (CH), Kirche St. Nikolaus
Ars Produktion - ARS 38 563 (© 2019) (68'58")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Evaristo Felice DALL'ABACO (1675-1742): Concerto in G, op. 6,5; Concerto in A, op. 6,8b; Giuseppe Matteo ALBERTI (1685-1751): Concerto in Fa; Sigr. DETRI (?Louis DETRY) (?-?): Solo a flautoa; Giovanni Antonio PIANI: Sonata in G, op. 1,4; Nicola Antonio PORPORA (1686-1768): Meride e Selinunte, dramma per musica (1727): Con alma intrepidaa; La Semiramide riconosciuta, dramma per musica (1739): Vorrei spiegar l'affannoa; Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757): Sinfonia No. 13 in B flat; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Sonata in D (RV 84)a

Sources: Giovanni Antonio Piani, Sonate a Violino solo e Violoncello col Cimbalo, op. 1, 1712; Evaristo Felice dall'Abaco, Concerti à più istrumenti, op. 6, 1735

Claudio Rado, Christine Verdon, violin; Katia Viel, violin, viola; Carlos Vallés García, viola; Jonathan Pesek, cello; Giovanni Battista Graziadio, bassoon; Federico Abraham, double bass; Elisa La Marca, theorbo; Juan Sebastian Lima, guitar; Chani Lesaulnierb, Nadja Lesaulnier, harpsichord

[II] Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Concertos pour flûte à bec"
Vincent Lauzer, recorder
Arion Orchestre baroque
Dir: Alexander Weimann
rec: Oct 2017, Mirabel (Québec, CAN), Église Saint-Augustin
ATMA - ACD2 2760 (© 2018) (65'12")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto in C (RV 444); Concerto in c minor (RV 441); Concerto in e minor (RV 445); Concerto in F (RV 312R) (ed. Jean Cassignol); Concerto in F (RV 442); Concerto in G (RV 443); Concerto in g minor, op. 10,2 'La Notte' (RV 439)

Chantal Rémillard, Laura Andriani, Guylaine Grégoire, Tanya LaPerrière, Chloe Meyers, Noémy Gagnon-Lafrenais, Sari Tsuji, violin; Jacques-André Houle, Valérie Arsenault, viola; Kate Bennett-Wadsworth, Amanda Keesmaat, cello; Dominic Girard, double bass; Sylvain Bergeron, archlute, guitar; Alexander Weimann, harpsichord, organ

Recently I reviewed several discs with music for recorder. Most of them include quite some interesting repertoire, part of which is little-known, if at all. The two discs under review here are very different. The first comprises again hardly-known items, whereas the second is definitely the most unimaginative I have heard recently - that is, as far as the repertoire is concerned.

However, the Vivaldi concertos are intended for the recorder. That is different with the first disc: only one piece in the programme is originally conceived for the recorder, whereas the others either were adapted for the instrument or don't include a recorder part at all. The only recorder piece is the Solo a flauto by a certain Sigr. Detri. In New Grove I have not found any composer of that name or a name that looks like it. The liner-notes mention that this piece is part of the collection of Prince Friedrich of Württemberg, who had the French bassoonist Louis Detry in his service. It is suggested that he is identical with Sigr. Detri, which seems plausible. It is a very nice piece with many surprises, which remind me of the sonatas by Giuseppe Sammartini, a recording of which I reviewed recently.

The other pieces with recorder are adaptations. The best-known item is what is called here a concerto da camera, but what is in fact a trio sonata. The Sonata in D (RV 84) by Antonio Vivaldi is scored for transverse flute, violin and basso continuo. Performing pieces for the transverse flute on the recorder is quite common practice. Sometimes a transposition to a different key is necessary, but not in the case of the Concerto in F by Giuseppe Matteo Alberti. The liner-notes mention that he also composed a sonata for recorder, which is used as a further argument to play it on this instrument.

Giovanni Antonio Piani was a violinist from Naples. A set of twelve sonatas, published in 1712 as his Op. 1, is his only extant music. The composer indicates that some of the sonatas can be played at the recorder or the transverse flute. That is rather surprising: in most such cases, the composer avoids exploring the features of the violin, but that is not the case here. "[The] sonatas indicated require just about as many idiomatic changes to be rendered playable on a wind instrument as the rest of the opus" (booklet). Therefore Céline Pasche decided to select another sonata than one of those mentioned by Piani. The Sonata No. 4 in G does pretty well on the recorder, but its origin as a violin sonata is clearly noticeable.

Adaptations of flute or violin sonatas for the recorder may be pretty common these days, but arrangements of opera arias are not that often performed and recorded. Recently, Tabea Debus released a disc with several such arrangements of arias by Handel and Telemann. This is very much in line with performance practice in the 18th century. For instance, the London publisher Walsh printed a collection of arias from Handel's opera Alessandro in arrangements for recorder. On the internet I found a collection of Handel arias in such arrangements by Peter Prelleur of 1735. As her programme focuses on Italian music, Céline Pasche has chosen two arias by Nicola Antonio Porpora, which is especially nice as little of the composer's operatic output is known today. These are beautiful arias, which sound very well on the recorder.

Lastly, the programme includes two concertos for strings and basso continuo by Evaristo Felice dall'Abaco, whose extant oeuvre is rather small. The two pieces included here are from the Op. 6, published in Amsterdam in 1735, which has been recorded complete by Il Tempio Armonico, directed by Alberto Rasi (Stradivarius, 2008).

I have to confess that I prefer discs with original recorder music. In reviews of recent recordings I have pointed out that these were evidence that there is still much original music that is hardly known and waits to be recorded. That said, this disc is quite nice. I have enjoyed the music as well as the performances. Céline Pasche is a fine recorder player, who treats the material with fantasy, without crossing the boundaries of what is historically tenable. My only reservation regards the cadenza in the last movement of Alberti's Concerto in F. I had not heard I Pizzicanti before, and I am happy to add this to the list of excellent ensembles of the younger generation, which will hopefully have a bright future, and not become the victim of the present circumstances.

Not much about the concertos by Antonio Vivaldi needs to be said. They are among the most popular concertos for this instrument, which can not only be explained by their quality, but also by the fact that not that many recorder concertos were written in the baroque period. The recorder was first and foremost the instrument of amateurs, and they were more interested in solo and trio sonatas than in concertos.

We find here the usual concertos. Two are written for the alto recorder (RV 441 and 442), and three for flautino (RV 443 to 445), meaning a sopranino. As the autographs of RV 443 and 445 indicate that the respective solo parts should be transposed down a fourth, they are played here on the soprano recorder. The sopranino is only used in RV 444. In his Op. 10, Vivaldi arranged several older pieces for the modern scoring of transverse flute, strings and basso continuo. It is quite common among recorder players to perform them on their own instrument, turning back the time, so to speak. I believe that the original scorings are preferable, but I understand that recorder players can hardly resist them, in particular as part of a programme with a string ensemble.

From the perspective of repertoire, this disc seems to have little new to offer. However, there is one notable exception. The Concerto in F (RV 392R) is an adaptation of the Concerto in G for violin. Jacques-André Houle, in his liner-notes, writes: "There would perhaps have existed a fourth authentic concerto for flautino had Vivaldi continued with this instrument when composing what became the Violin Concerto in G major, RV 312. This would undoubtedly have been his first attempt at a flautino concerto (its precise date is unknown), but he had a change of mind along the way, opting instead for the violin perhaps because his inspiration had exceeded what he then saw as the potential of this tiny instrument. Arranged and transposed here to suit once again a small recorder, the soprano, this concerto abounds in somewhat more violinistic musical feats." Vincent Lauzer plays this work in a reconstruction by Jean Cassignol. It is a nice addition to the repertoire, and if it is published, recorder players should add it to their repertoire.

That is my main reason to recommend this disc even to those who already have one or more recordings of these concertos in their collection. The playing of Lauzer is a further argument in favour of this disc. I like his performances which are stylish and imaginative, for instance in the addition of ornamentation. Here and there he slows down the tempo to create some tension. These are anything but straightforward performances. The ensemble Arion plays with seven violins and two violas. It is impossible to say what size is most close to the original performance habits; we don't know when and where these pieces were played anyway. I personally would prefer a smaller line-up, but that is largely a matter of taste.

Anyway, you certainly can't go wrong with this disc. It is Vivaldi at his best.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Vincent Lauzer
Céline Pasche
Arion Orchestre baroque
I Pizzicanti

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